I don’t recall a game that has meant so little, but meant so much at the same time. After playing just two weeks ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers are squaring off again to end the season. Despite the regular season being all but over for both the Bucs and Panthers, there is still a lot to figure out.
This game will be one last look at their roster before the next step. For the Buccaneers that is the playoffs; for the Panthers its the offseason. And since this team is fresh in our minds and this game doesn’t mean a whole lot, here’s what I’ll be looking to learn vs the Carolina Panthers.
Buccaneers Receivers vs Panthers Secondary
The Panthers allow the second fewest passing yards per game this season at just 184. Big names like CJ Henderson, Jeremy Chinn, Jaycee Horn and Stephon Gilmore have been in and out of the lineup throughout the year, but have been a big upgrade in overall talent. This is the strength of the Panthers defense. And although some of these names will not play this weekend, it will be a good test for a suddenly unproven group of pass catchers.
With Chris Godwin out for the season and Antonio Brown catching the first bus out of town, there is a lot to figure out with the receivers. From basic things, like who will start opposite of Mike Evans, to what this passing centric offense will look like featuring a bunch of bench warmers and outcasts. Regardless of results, gaining clarity on this will be my biggest take away from this game.
Running the Panthers Offense
Between Sam Darnold and Cam Newton, I have no idea who will play quarterback for Carolina. It makes sense that it be Darnold as the Panthers try to figure out their future at that position. However, two weeks ago it was Newton who started the game and found some success againstthe Buccaneers. Personally, I hope that’s the case again this week.
Primarily because of how good of a runner he is. Much like a majority of the quarterbacks the Bucs could see on Wildcard Weekend, a quarterback that can run is a key part of the offense when he’s on the field. So regardless if it’s Jalen Hurts or Taysom Hill, Newton will be a good tune-up for this defense.
Injuries are part of football. It’s a violent game and people will always get hurt playing it. However, you’d hate to see any major injury in a game that really doesn’t matter. The impact it can have on free agency, like we’ve seen with Chris Godwin, or in the Buccaneers case the playoffs can’t be overstated. Regardless of who you root for, everyone can cross their fingers and hope we see no injuries this weekend.
This game doesn’t mean much and draws no real excitement from anybody. It feels like a formality before the Buccaneers start playing for something that matters and the Panthers start working on their golf game.
With all the injuries and unanswered questions I do expect this game to be somewhat close. However, I don’t see the Panthers having much motivation to do anything but get out of town.
Panthers – 16
Bucs – 23